Dr. Cleland Boyd McAfee was born on September 25th, 1866, in Ashley, Missouri. After graduating from Union Theological Seminary, McAfee served in various ministerial capacities – as a professor in two different institutions, pastoring churches in Missouri, Chicago, and New York City, and authoring many books on theology. He was distinguished among his peers as a celebrated author, excellent bible teacher, and gifted preacher. He retired to Jaffrey, New Hampshire, but continued his active ministry lifestyle until his death in 1944.
In 1901, 35-year-old McAfee was pastoring at First Presbyterian Church in Chicago, Illinois, when he learned of the sudden death of his two beloved nieces, stricken by diphtheria. In his stunned grief, the heartbroken pastor turned his eyes to the Lord for comfort. With his brother’s home under quarantine due to the illness, his method for aiding to bear this burden could not be of the usual kind. Reaching for some paper, a hymn of comfort flowed from his pen. The day of the funeral dawned, but those in the house that death had visited could not attend. McAfee stood outside his brother’s darkened home and brokenly sang the tender song “Near to the Heart of God” for the first time. The song quickly became a favorite in the family and continued to spread as McAfee introduced it to his church, and his other brother carried it back to his pastorate in Berkley, California. The hymn was first officially published in 1903 and has since become one of the great hymns of the faith. How precious it becomes in our sight as we reflect on the occasion that birthed it!
O Jesus blest Redeemer,
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